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Wellness Wednesday: My Personal Battle with an Eating Disorder

Come read about my personal battle with an eating disorder — from how it started to where I am now plus how it’s changed my life.

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Call this Wellness Wednesday a throwback one. To the deep dark days of my life where food was everything and nothing. Over the past few years, I’ve talked a lot on the blog about how my eating disorder affected myself, relationships and choices. It’s not an easy thing to share, however now that I know that many of you have struggled with disordered eating, I feel more confident to share my experience.

Even if you haven’t battled an eating disorder, this might be worth the read, simply for a little insight as to how devastating it can be.

monique on the beach in Australia

So here’s how the story of my eating disorder began:

With exercise. Yes, it all started with me joining the gym. At the time, my decision to start exercising was an easy one. I had felt just a tiny bit overweight (maybe 10-15 pounds) for most of my teenage years. After the death of my father and two years in college, I gained a few more pounds. Before I knew it, I was uncomfortable in my own skin, itching for a change in my confidence and appearance. What I desired is what most girls desire at that age: to look good in a swimsuit, to be able to wear anything she wants, to be confident and attractive.

Seems pretty lame now.

When I signed up for my gym membership back in 2009, I remember stepping on the scale. It read 149 pounds. Whoa, I remember thinking. I did gain some weight. No biggie, I’ll just eat less and exercise! 

And I did just that.

In about a month, ten pounds came off rather quickly by doing a mixture of eating less and choosing to exercise a few days a week. I enjoyed the fact that my jeans were baggy and overall I had more energy. People seemed to notice my thinner face and I didn’t mind receiving compliments on my slimmer appearance. My confidence was improving too.

Monique mixing brownie batter
I loved to bake and cook, but was afraid to eat.

Where the problem started

I didn’t want to stop. In fact, I never wanted the feeling of losing weight to stop. To me it felt wonderful to achieve something you worked physically hard for; I took weight loss as a challenge, and as a well-known perfectionist/overachiever, I knew how to be successful. Very successful. Maybe a little too successful.

Throughout my junior year, I slowly dropped 10 more pounds. My so-called goal weight — whoo hoo! I looked healthy and strong and boy was I intensely proud of the body I worked for. For a while, it felt incredible. That was until I started picking on myself and how I looked. My thighs weren’t toned enough. My stomach wasn’t flat enough. Nothing seemed good enough. I still saw my former self.

Obviously, this was body dysmorphia. I was so used to looking at myself at a certain weight and couldn’t accept how I truly looked now. If I could go back, I would tell myself that I was beautiful and perfect in every way. Because when I started picking myself apart is when I lost the balance in both eating and exercise.

The summer going into my senior year of college was when the real obsessiveness with food and exercise began. I subscribed to every health and fitness magazine. I counted every single calorie that was put into my body and kept a notebook of what I ate. I stopped going out as often. I no longer baked because I didn’t want to have to eat what I made (something I loved since I was a child.) I scheduled everything around my workouts (seriously, EVERYTHING). Then I began doubling up on my workouts. I stopped drinking because of the calories or I skipped meals so I could drink.

Basically, I ran my body into the ground until I was literally starving myself. 

The summer before my senior year I lost 10 more pounds. My mom begged me to stop losing weight. I pretended like I didn’t know what she was talking about as I scarfed down my egg whites and green beans out of a prepacked tupperware. I got upset with her for even bringing my weight up or telling me how I should be living my life. Looking back I can see that all she was doing was trying to help. It’s a terrible feeling.

My weight continued to plummet as my senior year went on. I was wearing a size 00 and couldn’t find any jeans that fit me. I hadn’t gotten my period in more than a year.

monique and her mom
My mom and I — at my lowest weight right after graduation

The Uh Oh Moment

Suddenly it all came crashing down on me. My father’s death, the need to control my food, my desire for perfection. I was incredibly afraid and I couldn’t pinpoint why. I’d call my mom multiple times a day crying because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had multiple internships, was involved in school activities, an excellent student, I loved my friends and I had a boyfriend. Everything sounds perfect, but on the inside I knew it wasn’t. I was struggling with my emotional health (and physical).

Eventually my heart slowed to 32 beats per minute. My doctors said that I had developed brachycardia, a heart rate of under 60 beats per minute. Mine was so extremely slow, that my doctor feared I would pass out. I ended up in the hospital overnight.

After that, I knew that my life and everything in it needed a makeover. I needed to get better and I would do whatever it took to achieve that.

So, I started my blog! I cooked food that I never would have had I been still in the deep illness of my eating disorder. I celebrated with friends. I gave myself life again through experiences and travel. I said yes to more things. I gained the weight back plus more (we’ll talk about that another time).

Throughout this period of time, I felt myself slip in and out of depression. I felt as though my identity had been with my eating disorder and I no longer knew who I was. Eventually, I saw a psychologist who helped me work through my issues related to food and disordered eating. It took a long time for me to heal my relationship with food. As in, about five years. I still have days when I’m stressed where eating disorder patterns come out but I can recognize them and immediately throw away those thoughts.

I’m writing this to you today to let you know that you are not alone in this struggle (if this is something you are battling). My best advice is to seek professional help because everybody’s disorder is different. There’s no shame in seeking help — I 100% believe it’s one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done for myself. Understanding the WHY behind your eating disorder or disordered eating is a critical step to recovery.

Thanks so much for reading this post and being here with me. Your support has been one in a million. As always, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below!

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